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Introduction – Mental Ability Test

The mental ability test problems, sometimes called Mental Aptitude problems, test the reasoning & interpretation skills of candidates. This is done by looking at how a candidate approaches problems of the test. It is not very easy to test thinking of a candidate since, unlike in other subjects vis-a-vis Physics, Maths, Biology, English etc., there is not an established theory to it. However, over the years, mental ability test has moulded itself into a set of questions which are still growing in variety. The best part is that the questions that can be asked in a mental ability test are growing in variety faster than the theory of Science & commerce.

What is the Motivation?

Many students at many times question the motivation behind mental ability test as one of the criteria of selection exam or procedure. Their doubt over the applications of mental ability tests can’t be outrightly rejected. They are right in asking ‘What is the real world application of mental ability test?’. These aren’t even recognised academically in schools & colleges. It is not as clear as it is for subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, English etc. So it becomes important that a solid ground is established in defence of mental ability test. Let’s see how these questions help the examiner make a better selection.

Students preparing for any exam practice all kinds of problems in the theory subjects and more than just once. Over their long preparation periods, they get so much used to doing these problems that it’s not a test for them. There is a need for questions that put their thinking process to test. This is the primary motivation behind a mental ability test. Other than just their thinking & originality, it tests their time management better than the theory problems. Some of the mental ability test problems (we’ll look at them later) also encourage fresh perspectives – something which will be needed at every stage of a mankind. It is also observed that with practice, students feel very comfortable with the problems asked in theory subjects. What then would put their temperaments to test? Because it is tested best when something out of the box is asked. So, following are some things that Mental ability test puts to test & helps in screening

  • Better time management
  • Originality/Fresh Perspectives
  • Temperament
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Analytical Reasoning

A mental ability test always is such that it checks candidates’ mapping of the problem to both their left (analytical & logical) and right side (originality) of the brains. Hoping that the motivation behind mental ability test problems has been established, let’s take a look at the different types of the same.

Different Types of Mental Ability Problems

Verbal Reasoning

As the name is suggestive, these problems demand of the test takers to reason around language. So this involves the following type of problems

  • Jumbled Paragraphs/Para-jumbles – In these type of mental ability test problems, typically 4/5 statements are given in random order. The candidates are asked to rearrange these statements to form a paragraph that makes the best sense. Let’s look at an example of ‘Para-jumbles’ (Try solving this yourself). Candidates have to select what’s the correct order of the statements given below.
    1. Not only this, Frankl vocally abhors Freudian school of thought in his book.
    2. Man’s search for meaning is a book by Dr Viktor Frankl, published originally in German.
    3. He has used lives of camp prisoners to coin his own school of thought called Logotherapy.
    4. Viktor Frankl was one of the Nazi concentration camp survivors.
    5. Many logotherapists have cured their patients by simply asking them to find a meaning to their existence.
  • Assertion & Reason – These are another very popular verbal reasoning problem type asked in a mental ability test. Here, typically two statements are given and candidates are asked to determine if there exists an inter-relation between the two statements. It used to be a part of the IIT JEE question paper for a long time. Here’s an example of a typical assertion & reason problem
    1. A : Angular momentum of an electron about the nucleus is always an integral function of (h/2π)
    2. B : Line of electro-nuclear force passes through the nuclear force

    Choose one of the following options

    1. A is true but B is not true.
    2. B is true but A is not true.
    3. Both A & B are true, but not an explaination to each other
    4. Both A & B are true & B explains A.
  • Paragraph Summary/Central idea – In these types of verbal reasoning problems, candidates are given a 5-6 line paragraph. Following the paragraph are given 4 statements. Candidates are required to choose the statement which best summarises the paragraph in question.
    Let’s go through an example of Paragraph Summary.Paragraph Question : In a life involving so many people, social relations matter a lot. In a corporate world, for example, you should be compatible both with your superiors & subordinates. Believe me you, it is easier said than done. After all, everyone is a different person. In such cases reading people is of utmost importance. One of the best ways of reading people is by being passive around them – listen, observe etc. It also should be kept in mind that you don’t overdo it.

    Q. Which statement best summarises the passage above?

    1. The best way to read people is by listening & observing them.
    2. In life, reading people is the most important thing.
    3. Judging people is important in life. This can be done by being passive around them.
    4. Reading people is one of the ways of building a good rapport with them.
  • Reading Comprehension – An English paragraph is provided. Candidates have to answer questions based on this paragraph. The paragraphs can be anything from an article on environmental pollution to something very abstract. Questions asked on these are generally the following type
  • What is the tone of the author?
  • Which word from the paragraph means ‘this’?
  • What are author’s views on ‘this’?
  • Who do you think could be the author of this piece?
  • Which statement is the best summary of this comprehension?

Logical (Non-Verbal) Reasoning

These kind of mental ability test problems ask of the candidate to logically find the solution. Here are some types of the logical reasoning problems.

    1. Find the next number in the series – 1,1,2,4,7,13,X.
    2. Find the missing symbol – BCD, BC3D2,B4C9D3,BxCyDz
    3. Find the missing diagram in the figure below.
Mental Ability Test - Find the missing Figure
Mental Ability Test – Find the missing Figure
  1. A’s father D is grandfather to B’s daughter C. How can B & D be related? or How can A & C be related?

Data Interpretation

These are the types of mental ability test problems which can be easiest and the toughest. If you don not use the right approach, it can take you a lot of time to solve these. These problems have to be solved in a very organised manner, since there is a lot of data involved in these. Generally, these are asked in form of a comprehension which introduces a lot of Data. it may also define a quantity through a mathematical formula. The comprehension is followed by 4-5 problems based on the comprehension. We can’t take up an entire comprehension here, but we can look at what are the types of data that need interpretation in these kinds of questions. Let’ have a look

  1. The data can be the performance of a company – sales volume, profit & revenue -over given number of years. These numbers will be given in form of graphs and tables. Candidates will be required to related the table & graph to be able to answer the problems.
  2. The data can be a population’s behaviour over a given number of years. Data interpretation will be similar as in the previous type of data.
  3. There can be a comprehension containing 10-12 logic statements about the constituents of the problem. The problems will be asking an information which exists deeper under the layers formed by the given login statements.


These are the oldest form of mental ability test problems and the most favourite among the students. There’s generally a catch hidden in these problems which solve them. A candidate has to do a lot of thinking in these problems. And it is in these that fresh perspectives surface the most. Here’s a puzzle to help you understand

Q. A, B, C & D are four people who’ve just met. They do not want to disclose their previous salaries to each other. Their senior orders them to tell him their exact average salary. How do you think they can find it without disclosing their previous salaries?


These are another type of problems most frequently asked in the interviews. They require a lot of thinking. Try the following guesstimate problems to get an idea.

  1. How many IPhone 7 owners are there in India?
  2. How many flights are leaving your nearest airport?
  3. How many petrol pumps are there in your city?
  4. How many Gyms are running in Bangalore?

The most difficult part of these guesstimates is that you have to arrive at the right order of the quantity. This requires a very robust approach and some very smart assumptions.

Mental Ability Test – Where are these asked?

National Talent Search Examination (NTSE) Stage 1

The first stage of NTSE selection procedure consists of two sections – a written Mental Ability Test (MAT) & written Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which must both be cleared to move to the second stage of the exam.

Common Aptitude Test (CAT)

CAT is conducted every year and is taken by those aspiring to pursue a career in management. The exam consists of just one question paper divided into the following sections

  1. Verbal Reasoning – Generally the first section of the exam. An hour is allotted to answer 34 problems.
  2. Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation – This forms the second half of the paper, comprising of 34 questions.
  3. Quantitative Aptitude – This section mainly contains problems on basic mathematics such as unitary methods, simple geometry, profit & loss etc.

As it can be seen, the major portion of CAT is nothing but a mental ability test. Thus it is very important here.

Entrance Tests

Today the major recruiters in the job market are those who hire for roles in finance, analytics, software programming etc. All these companies conduct written tests to shortlist candidates for their interview procedure. One of the stages of these tests is definitely mental ability test or more commonly called as an aptitude test. So, if you want a job, you can’t overlook the importance of mental ability questions.


Topmost companies have decided the fate of the best performing candidates through a puzzle or a guesstimate asked during their interview. They consider the best way to test problem-solving skills of the candidate being interviewed is a puzzle. Especially in the limited time interval they are given with, puzzles are the best way to check the abilities indeed.

Hope the article is instrumental in both explaining what a mental ability test asks and in driving home the importance of it, which is gradually becoming a major step of almost every screening process. That’s all on mental ability test problems. If you have anything to add, do leave in the comments’ section.

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